PM Degree row: Delhi HC refuses to advance date of hearing of plea

 The Delhi High Court Monday refused to advance the hearing of a petition by Delhi University (DU) challenging the Central Information Commission’s order directing the varsity to allow inspection of records of all students who had passed the BA exam in 1978, the year Prime Minister Narendra Modi had graduated from there.

Justice Subramonium Prasad issued notice to DU on an application seeking early hearing in the case and listed it for October 13, the date already fixed in the main petition.

The high court had stayed the Commission’s order dated December 21, 2016 on January 23, 2017.

Besides DU’s challenge to the Central Information Commission (CIC) order, the court was also hearing other petitions which raised similar legal issues pertaining to disclosure of details of results of certain examinations.

The CIC order was passed on activist Neeraj’s application under the Right to Information Act, seeking details related to students who had appeared for the Bachelor of Arts examination conducted by DU in 1978.

During the hearing, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for Neeraj, submitted since the matter was pending for a long time, an early hearing was warranted.

“The matter is listed in October. Take it from me, it will be disposed of then, provided I continue in the roster. It does not impress why it (rescheduling of the hearing date) should be done,” the judge said.

In its challenge to the CIC order, DU has contended that the order of the RTI authority is “arbitrary” and “untenable in law”, as the information sought to be disclosed is “third party personal information”.

The DU said in its plea that “it was completely illegal for the CIC to direct the petitioner (DU) to disclose an information which is available to it in its fiduciary capacity, that too without rendering any finding pertaining to any pressing necessity or overwhelming public interest warranting disclosure of such information on account of overwhelming/larger public interest sought to be achieved through such disclosure.”

Delhi University has earlier told the court the CIC order has far-reaching adverse consequences for the petitioner and all universities in the country which hold degrees of crores of students in a fiduciary capacity.

It has claimed the RTI Act has been reduced to a “joke” with queries seeking records of all students who had passed the BA examination in 1978, including that of Prime Minister Modi.

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The CIC, in its order, had asked DU to allow inspection of the records, while rejecting the contention of its Central Public Information Officer that it was third party personal information, saying there was “neither merit, nor legality” in it.

It had directed the university to facilitate inspection of the relevant register where complete information about the results of all students who passed the Bachelor of Arts examination in the year 1978 with their roll numbers, names, the names of their fathers and marks obtained as available with the University, and provide a certified copy of the extract of relevant pages to the applicant free of cost.

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